Panel gives leeway to politicos over declaring assets

Also recommends enhancing of election expenditures

Panel gives leeway to politicos over declaring assets

Politicians may be able to contest elections without making public the current value of the assets they inherited or acquired in the past, if the recommendation of a Parliamentary panel is accepted.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice also recommended that the limits on election expenditures should be “substantially enhanced”. 

It argued that the actual expenditures on the elections have often been much more than the limits prescribed by Rule 90 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, and the candidates are often accused of concealing expenses to escape obligations laid in the Representation of People’s Act. 

It also recommended that the rule should be periodically reviewed to increase or decrease the limits.

The panel recommended changes in the election rules to allow candidates to declare values of properties at the rates prevalent when they had acquired or inherited those assets. 

At present, the candidates have to declare the value of their properties at the current rates when they file nomination papers. The panel argued that the assets could have been inherited or acquired in the past when the rates were much lesser.

“Considering the value of those assets at present rate, many a times leads to the impression as if, the said property or the assets were acquired through unaccountable sources. In such a situation, candidates fail to offer reasonable explanation to the people or media when they are questioned,” the panel said in its latest report on “Electoral Reforms – Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Anti-Defection Law”. 

Noting that the current high value of the assets “damages the reputation of the candidates” during the elections, the panel called for necessary amendments to ensure that the valuation of the properties are done at the rates prevalent when the candidates had acquired or inherited.

The committee suggested that fast track courts should be set up to dispose election disputes within a period of 12 months. 

The committee also noted that instructions and orders issued by the Election Commission (EC) under Article 324 of the Constitution sometimes appeared to be encroaching upon legislative power of Parliament. 

“Such instructions or orders issued by the EC may be suitably incorporated in the Representation of People Act, 1951, or rules framed thereunder,” it recommended.It is expedient to enact a law for giving statutory back-up to the model code of conduct, leaving no vacuum for the EC to exercise its power which is residuary in nature, the committee added. 

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